Saturday, May 10, 2014

Two Prospects, Two Different Paths of Development Revisited

   A little over a year ago, we compared the development of Tyler Beede and Daniel Norris, the Blue Jays' first and second picks in the 2011 MLB first year player draft.
   Beede, a righthander from Massachusetts, had a reported demand of $3.5 million as a signing bonus.  He and the Blue Jays never really came close in their negotiations, and Beede trundled off to Vanderbilt to begin his collegiate career at Vanderbilt.  Norris, a lefty from Tennessee, was taken with the 74th pick.  His stock had tumbled because of his own commitment to Clemson (some had tabbed him as the best prep southpaw in the draft), but he signed with the Blue Jays for a  reported $2 million.
   The pair struggled in their first seasons.  Starting in the bullpen for Vandy, Beede eventually worked his way into the starting rotation, with command being an issue for much of his freshmand year.  Norris began his pro career at rookie level Bluefield in late June, followed by a mid-summer promotion to Vancouver.  Plain and simply, Norris was hit hard at both stops.  He alternated promising outings with ones where he was rocked after his own struggles with finding the strike zone.
  Almost a year later in 2013, the two appeared headed in drastically different directions.  Beede had shown improved command, and  went on to set a school record for wins in a season. Norris' struggles continued in his first month of full season ball at Lansing, sporting a 10.07 ERA after his first seven starts.  Beede was being called a top 5 pick in the 2014 draft, while some were suggesting Norris was a huge bust.
   And then the tide begin to tip in the other direction.   Norris began to worry less about mechanics, and began to trust his stuff.  His command improved, and he was one of the Midwest League's top pitchers before being promoted to High A Dunedin in late August.
   Fast forward to the end of April, and things look very different.  Beede has had an up and down season, struggling again with his control, with his stock falling - he's gone from being just outside of the projected top draft picks in the draft now to somewhere in the middle to even near the end of the first round.   Norris has simply been electric in his return to Dunedin, picking up where he left off last fall, with likely only pitch count restrictions preventing another promotion to AA.
   So, who's ahead on the development curve?  Last year at this time, it was clearly Beede.  Now, it's a no-doubter that it's Norris.  Beede, as a college junior, has a bit of leverage in negotiations with whichever team drafts him, so there's no guarantee he will sign right away (the signing deadline has been moved from mid-August in 2011 to mid-July now), but if he does, it's likely he will start at low A or even one of the short-season leagues.  And Norris may be at AA by that time.
   Who will reach the major leagues first?  At this point, the smart money would be on Norris.  There still is some debate as to who has the higher ceiling, but it's likely the Blue Jays don't regret not meeting Beede's bonus demand.  Beede spurning their final offer gave them more cash to offer Norris, and they turned the compensation pick they received for not signing him into Marcus Stroman the following year.

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